Everyones innocent in here. Dont you know that?
- Andy Dufresne
The Shawshank Redemption
There cant be many tasks tougher than seeking better treatment of criminals.
If the public had its way, most of our jails would resemble medieval dungeons, complete with wrist-shackles and heavy chains bolted to the walls. Bread and water once a day, one big trough functioning as a combination tub and toilet, piles of straw for the prisoners to sprawl on when they arent busting rocks.
Cable TV? Law libraries? Exercise yards?
Are you kidding?
Unfortunately for the less-charitable souls among us, our Constitution and courts have made prison life somewhat more bearable. And there are all sorts of groups filing complaints and lawsuits aimed at making prisons even more pleasant.
Sometimes these groups pick a poster boy like Mumia Abu-Jamal, the much-celebrated cop killer in Philadelphia. Radical, articulate and photogenic, Abu-Jamal is the favorite of whiny leftists the world over - and has now escaped the death penalty as a result of his appeals.
But it isnt just faraway killers getting their faces lovingly plastered on Internet sites. Now were being treated to online pleas from the sister of local maggot Reinaldo Rivera. Gloria Rivera tells us her brother is greater than his worst deed and is still a human being.
So were his victims.
I certainly understand how a family member worries about a relative behind bars. Lord knows Ive heard plenty of it over the years - some from relatives or friends, more from inmates hoping to find a helpful media outlet.
There is a big difference, however, between, say, complaining about the high cost of prison phone calls and accusing prison and jail officials of mistreating inmates. Those collect calls - we remember hearing about them from campaign ads against Charles Walker Jr. - are hideously expensive, profiting the phone company and the state at the expense of inmate families.
Research says inmates who stay in touch with their families are better-behaved and less likely to get sent back to prison once released. Yet the state actually makes it more difficult to maintain that contact by making it more expensive - and even profiteering from it. Thats worth complaining about.
Riveras sister, however, is hooked up with a group that tries to publicize what it sees as prisoner maltreatment. Gloria Rivera alleges that her brother is just trying to be a nice fellow while awaiting trial in Richmond County on multiple murder, rape and kidnapping charges, but that the mean ol guards keep beating him up. (Richmond County officials deny any such thing.)
And she tells us we really need to understand what went wrong, why this terrible thing happened. News-flash, Gloria: What went wrong is that your brother is a vile, evil man, whom prosecutors say raped and killed Tabatha L. Bosdell, Tiffaney Wilson, Melissa Dingess and Army Sgt. Marni M. Glista. He wasnt arrested until October 2000, after a teen-age girl he raped and stabbed survived and went to police.
Rivera, who tried to plead guilty to save himself from execution, also is under in-dictment in Columbia County. He was talkative after his arrest, and cops found what was left of Bosdells body in the woods near Grovetown - about four months after she had disappeared.
Rivera goes to trial in a couple of weeks. Once hes out of Richmond Countys jail, his sister can seek our sympathy for his treatment in Georgias prison system - at least until execution puts him out of our misery.
Then maybe she can update her Web site to whine about his treatment in hell.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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